I got an email today that made my heart do a little dance. It was from a fellow widow friend of mine, whom I've only met online, and who also happens to be a therapist. This was what her email said:
"I was with a client yesterday, and I asked her where she has found support online. She sighed and then said, 'Well, most of the stuff is useless. But I like 'Whats Your Grief' and 'www.ripthelifeiknew.com. (my personal blog). Those are really the only two.' So, there you have it. Not only one of a woman's Top 2. But one of her only 2. "
Talk about powerful. Somebody out there, someone I have never even met, read my words on a page and found "support" in them. And someone else whom I've never met, is this person's therapist, and decided to share that information with me, so that I would know it. And now I share it with you, so that you will know it too. Because if we don't tell people that they have made a difference to us, affected us, shaped us - how on earth will they ever know? All it really takes for isolation to become connection is for someone to say the first word.
It got me to thinking, as my heart was doing pleas in the corner. I started thinking about all of the ways in which everyone is connected. Sometimes you can feel that connection, that bond, like a jolt of lightning that goes through your entire body. Other times, it's more subtle, like someone reminding you of it in an email. Either way, it is there. That connection. It is always there.
We all inspire hope to someone. All of us. You might not even be aware of it, but it's true. Right now, right this very minute, you might be striving to get to where someone else is on the path of life. Meanwhile, at the exact same moment, there is somebody else who wants to be exactly where you are right now. You are inspired by the ones who are a bit ahead of you, and others are inspired by you. If you look forward to the ones in front, you think: "I saw that person in total darkness, and now they are no longer in that darkness. If I just keep going, I can get to where they are too." If you look behind you to the ones who are a bit in back, you think: "I remember what it was like to be there, where they are now. It was awful there. Maybe if I just keep going, they will be able to see my frame through the darkness, and they will know that they can get to where I am too."
In the beginning, all you can see is pain. Nothing else can get in, because the pain is everywhere. In the beginning, most of us are not capable or do not have the energy or motivation or care to look outside of our pain and into someone else's. Our own pain is much too overwhelming. Until it isn't. Eventually, the pain begins to spread itself out, like the end of a morning fog, and it makes some room for more of the sky. In that sky, and in that fog, you can just barely make out the lighthouse that sits far away in the distance. The pain is still there - it is always there - but now you are able to shape it and mold it and turn it into something more than just pain. Like my friend Michele, who took her pain and with it, created a community for widowed people everywhere. Or my friend Janine, who writes here every Wednesday. She and her pain packed up their life in Texas, and started a new one in NYC, using her own courage as the building blocks to glue together her new world. And there are countless others, each of them a beacon of light, scratching and clawing and finding their way to the top of the lighthouse, always fully aware of the others behind them, still wandering through the fog.
It is the ones in front of us, who offer pieces of what our own future might look like, if we just keep going. It is the ones in back of us, who offer us perspective on how far we have come already, especially when we are feeling like giving up, or feeling judged or like nobody can see us.
Keep going. Keep walking. They see you, in the same way that you see them. They are looking at your every step in the hot, thick sand - and they are saying with their tired and hurt voices: If he or she can get there, maybe I can too. You are somebody's lighthouse. And someone else is yours. And we are all silently helping each other, even when we don't know it. Maybe, especially when we don't know it.
Isn't that cool?
(Pictured: Lighthouse at night in Montauk, Long Island. Me with Janine. Me with Michele.)